The tanning industry is burning up its credibility

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported on the rising rates of melanoma, noting that this often deadly disease now most commonly affects young women. These statistics may not be so surprising after a study by IBISWorld revealed that white women between the ages of 18 and 21 are in the lead when it comes to using indoor tanning beds. In fact, an amazing 32 percent of white women admit to having done so, and the total number of tanners in the U.S. has been estimated at 28 million!

And though the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2009 categorized UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic, the indoor tanning industry has demonstrated continual growth over the last three years.

Yet dermatologists and public health officials are attempting to reverse this troubling trend by encouraging people to stay out of the sun and always use sunblock with high SPF protection if they do find themselves exposed to UV rays. In an effort to discredit these important health messages, however, the tanning industry is maintaining that indoor tanning is good for you. For instance, they point to the fact that UV radiation increases levels of vitamin D, which is important since we seem to find ourselves, according to the Tanning Association, in an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency.

Puhleeze. says ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom. As if one can t just drink a glass of milk? This is like saying that playing hopscotch on the Cross Bronx Expressway is a good way to get exercise.

Employees also argue that elevated vitamin D levels, which can be achieved by frying in a tanning bed, protect against illnesses such as breast cancer and autism. And while it s true that sunlight is a source of vitamin D, the tanning industry s claims are nothing short of disingenuous. When undercover investigators called 300 tanning salons, they found that 90 percent of the employees they spoke with said that tanning did not pose a health risk, while 51 percent denied that tanning increases the risk of cancer.

The tanning industry has also taken to attacking dermatologists, sunscreen manufacturers, and even charities such as the American Cancer Society, who they claim are part of the corrupt Sun Scare industry that is looking to turn a profit by scaring the public about the danger of excessive UV exposure.

While we understand that tanning is an individual choice, we can insist that tanning salons act more responsibly when it comes to providing their customers with accurate health information, including the serious risks that indoor tanning poses, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross.

Two states have already taken the initiative to prohibit minors from indoor tanning. And while 33 other states have also adopted teen tanning regulations albeit to a lesser extent currently, 17 states do not have any regulations at all.

"I believe the misinformation and outright falsehoods perpetrated by the tanning business render especially their young patrons a serious disservice," adds Dr. Ross. "Regulations regarding parental consent and full disclosure should be scrupulously adhered to by tanning salons.